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Does the high level of Lego sets available hinder creativity when building?

bandit778bandit778 Docking Bay 94. Member Posts: 2,259
I don't normally start new threads and I apologise if the subject has been discussed before but I have just read an article in Blocks magazine by Ed Mack from Brickpicker concerning whether the sheer volume of sets available in current years means that creative building is not what it once was with Lego due to their target audience buying, building then wanting to move on to the next set.

Just looking at the number of sets available over the years I do see what he is getting at.
1965 - 30 sets released
1975 - 43 sets released
1985 - 140 sets released
1995 - 161 sets released
2005 - 397 sets released
2015 - 769 sets released
(These figures are taken from the main site and they obviously include the CMF lines in the appropriate years.)

Now from an AFOL'S point of view this may not be so much of an issue as many AFOL'S have settled on a course of either collecting certain themes, MOC building, collecting older boxed sets, investing or just building what sets take their fancy. We also have the luxury of sites like Bricklink and Brickowl with a healthy diet of credit card to help us along with our chosen path.

But what about Lego's target audience?
In a world of ever increasing rinse and repeat pastimes, does the volume of different sets create a culture of just having, as opposed to using what you have, to good effect?

When I think back to when I was younger, I am surprised by how creative I could be with a bucket of loose bricks in a surprisingly small amount of colours.
Yet for me now, with so many sets still waiting to be to built, doing something so simple as finding a place on a set for the spare parts so they don't get lost can be a pain, as once the set is built (after the obligatory swooshing when no ones looking) I put it up for display for a time, then move on to build the next one.
I do wonder if someone like myself, who loves to build with Lego, can get caught up in the buy and build, then move on culture if there may be some truth to Eds piece.

Thoughts anyone?
(And I apologise for rambling on)


  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,421
    Disagree with the idea completely, it's personality and circumstance that influence building behaviour. Before joining Brickset i was fairly certain that as a child I only had one LEGO set and a big box of bricks, over time I've seen pictures of dozens of sets that I remembered having.
    Why does the memory change that way? Most likely because as a child the value of LEGO play to me was in building so all the sets i had got demolished for parts, so it was the parts i remember.

    If anything that LEGO are doing is pushing children to prefer keeping sets together I'd personally say it's the result of the TV show tieins, kids want to keep there Ninjago wacky vehicles as the vehicles they see in the show so they can reenact their favourite parts of the show etc. my basis for this is that the one set I'd always remembered having as a child was a star wars set, which did get recombined into a few random vehicles but always went back together afterwards so I could play star wars with it.

  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 19,651
    ^ I agree with the above. My kids build the sets and tend to keep them together. Does that hinder creativity? If they only have those sets and you ignore creativity in playing rather than building, then yes. However, they also have a bucket load of general bricks that get used much more for creative building, coming from classic creative sets, BL buys, stuff I don't want and old unwanted sets that have been broken down. I think every kid they know that is into lego also has a bucket / box of lego for creative play. So overall: no, creativity is not hindered by the number of sets.
  • AllBrickAllBrick UKMember Posts: 1,477
    Ed Mack is wrong. As Shib said, personality and circumstances.

    The problem is (IMO) the way kids are brought up in these different times. Too many distractions, too much choice and too many screens to look at and touch.

    I'm going out of my way to make sure my boy plays like I did as a child, going outside when the weather permits and if it's an indoors day, drawing, reading and LEGO. Ok, he's only 2.5 but, I can already see a difference in him compared to kids who I know that are given a tablet instead. 

    Yesterday he dragged out a whole slew of sets that have been half broken down and was obsessed with playing alone with them, you could hear him chatting away and having fun. Today we sat down and built #31033 and #31028 and he enjoyed every minute. Now he's off playing, I dont know whats going on but, he's having lots of fun and this is how it starts.

    I'm an old fashioned sort.of guy, can't stand social media, drive a car from 1987 and still buy vinyl. Heres to hoping that the nurture we're providing him rubs off in the way we hope it will.

    Isn't this topic along the same lines as Ben Fogles comments recently?
  • bandit778bandit778 Docking Bay 94. Member Posts: 2,259
    To be fair, after re-reading that thread, most of the discussion appeared to be about how much of an Ass-Hat Ben Fogle was and that he was an over privileged moaner.

    After reading the piece in Blocks, it made me think of how I personally use the Lego I own and If he might have a point - but I'm an old git who is set in my ways about how I do things, I am also not the target audience for TLG, nor do I have children.

    That is why I mentioned the article on here as I am interested in what others opinions on this topic were.

  • MaffyDMaffyD West YorkshireMember Posts: 2,977

    Glad that's been cleared up then! Was going to weigh in but previous posters have said everything I was going to (only I would've talked about my children, not theirs).

  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie West Haven , CTMember Posts: 1,670
    I have not seen the Ninjago cartoons, but I have seen a bunch of short Duplo Jake and the Neverland Pirate cartoons running on Disney Junior during commercial breaks. They build, smash and rebuild stuff in every episode I've seen, so at least on some level I think LEGO is doing their part to encourage kids to think beyond the instructions.
  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,921
    I have not seen the Ninjago cartoons, but I have seen a bunch of short Duplo Jake and the Neverland Pirate cartoons running on Disney Junior during commercial breaks. They build, smash and rebuild stuff in every episode I've seen, so at least on some level I think LEGO is doing their part to encourage kids to think beyond the instructions.
    The Ninjago cartoons don't tend to involve a lot of that sort of direct re-building except on the rare instances that the ninja use the Tornado of Creation to rebuild their surroundings into something to help them out of a jam. With that said, they also do feature a lot of vehicles and settings that don't appear in the sets and can serve as inspiration.

    I often hear criticisms of the LEGO cartoons like Ninjago, Chima, and Elves not having their vehicles and settings obviously built out of LEGO like in The LEGO Movie, and also of them re-imagining some of those vehicles and settings to be bigger or more impressive than they are in the sets (for instance, compare the show version of the Destiny's Bounty with the corresponding set version). However, one of the advantages I see to this is that it means there's not just one right way for those things to be built. With the LEGO video games or The LEGO Movie, it's very clear that certain models use certain pieces. But with the cartoons, everything tends to be a lot more open to interpretation.

    I do not have kids, nor am I around a lot of kids when they're building with LEGO, but I have not seen much indication that the number of sets influences kids to focus more on collecting than on building. When I was a kid there were lots and lots of sets I wanted but didn't own. I was surrounded with promotional material like posters, magazines, and catalogs advertising everything the LEGO brand had to offer. But that didn't stop me from building with what I had. Additionally, when I look at comments on the LEGO Facebook page I see plenty of parents proudly showing off creations their kids have made, so it doesn't seem to me like there's been any kind of unilateral decline in kids' creativity.

    Furthermore, I think some adults who feel like kids are less creative with LEGO than they used to be also ironically have a rather prescriptive idea of what LEGO play is supposed to be like. Not every kid explores their own creativity in the same way. Some kids might have a passion for building their own original creations, but others might prefer to make up stories with the official sets and characters, and that is creative in its own way.

    I think the AFOL community sometimes does a poor job recognizing other forms of creativity besides building (with the possible exception of Brickfilms). A lot of the other fandoms I'm a part of have all kinds of creative expression including drawing, painting, sculpture, comics, cosplay, musical composition, fan fiction, and animation. Whereas in the AFOL community it's a lot rarer to see forms of creative expression that aren't ultimately made from bricks.

    The fan communities for the LEGO Group's original IPs like Bionicle or Ninjago often seem to be better about this than the AFOL community at large, perhaps because there's so much more to them than just the bricks in the first place. Also, these communities tend to skew younger than the AFOL community. So where some people see the more media-driven themes as holding back kids' creativity, I see exactly the opposite: these sorts of themes inspire kids to view their LEGO sets and figures as more than just building blocks, and thus explore other ways of exploring their creative vision.
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 814
    bandit778 said:
    In a world of ever increasing rinse and repeat pastimes, does the volume of different sets create a culture of just having, as opposed to using what you have, to good effect?
    Honestly, I think he's barking up the wrong tree.  I don't understand how the two things would tie together.  How would volume and variety of available sets affect how a kid's going to play with what they have?

    Let's entertain the thought for a moment.  Suppose that classic space sets in the 70s and 80s were created and retired as quickly as they are now.  Pretend that they offered a volume of Pirates sets in 1989-1995 that's comparable to today (like, 10-20 or so new sets every year).  Same building style, same elements, just ... more sets.  What would have been the effect?

    Honestly?  Not much.  I think the main effect would be less of a nostalgic feel for particular sets.  I remember looking at the #6980 Galaxy Commander for several years straight, and wanting it, because it stayed in the catalog for several years.  If it were new sets every year, it probably wouldn't quite have the same nostalgia power on me.  But that's ... about it.

    Then there's variety.  Having a wide variety of themes to choose from-- in my childhood there was Town, Castle, Space, Technic, and ... "Basic".  That was really about it.  Technically Fabuland too (I'm ignoring DUPLO because it's kind of its own non-"System" thing).  These days we've got a MUCH wider variety.  Movie licenses, D2C sets, fantasy themes, Technic, Creator, "Bricks-And-More", and other oddballs like Mixels and Collectible Figures.  Tons.

    What does variety do?  Personally, I think it focuses more of children's time onto LEGO.  When I was a kid, I loved Star Wars.  But they didn't have any Star Wars LEGO, so I got the Kenner figures.  If LEGO had offered Star Wars stuff?  I probably would've gotten a mix of both.  Probably more LEGO than Kenner.  And for all those kids that AREN'T into LEGO?  They're more likely to find a LEGO theme that appeals to them.

    That means average kids probably have more LEGO than they used to have.  But I don't see why that would affect kids' creativity with LEGO.  If anything, it increases the amount of time they spend building, which probably increases their creativity with LEGO.

    So... I don't think that theory holds any water.

    But here's the thing: Everyone seems to think that LEGO is less creative than it was 20+ years ago.  Why?  What's the thing that's different?  What's the thing that people see about LEGO and think "that's making kids less creative"?

    It's got nothing to do with volume or variety of sets.  It's about the TYPE of play that a lot of LEGO's current offering presents that it didn't used to.  It's a focus on building sets, and not on re-building.  It's about building "this thing from the movie" rather than building whatever sparks your imagination.

    Has that actually changed?  Well, yes and no.  LEGO's audience has gotten more diverse, and THAT's the change.  LEGO never used to cater to the "we don't like to build creatively" crowd of kids.  THOSE kids didn't play much with LEGO in the 70s and 80s.  But now they do.  And what do they want?  They want cool scenes, vehicles, and characters to act out stories, mirroring what they see on TV, in the theater, and on YouTube.  They want THOSE things, and they don't really want to put in the time towards building something new and different.

    So, LEGO now has a large offering of sets that caters to THOSE kids.  They still have sets that focus on rebuilding-- but LEGO has divided the lineups into target demographics.  So you won't find a Chima set that's focused on re-building (except maybe the BrickMaster book?), but if you WANT sets that focus on re-building, they're out there.  And (of course) kids can still intermingle things like Creator with Chima (which I'd personally love to encourage).

  • bandit778bandit778 Docking Bay 94. Member Posts: 2,259
    Some very interesting points, it would seem that when doing opinion pieces, perhaps the magazine should have included an opposing view as well, as there is a lot being said that has good value to an opposing argument to the article.
    After reading through the comments, it also seems strange that a magazine which is very much community based would readily print something that appears to be so against what parts of that community think.
  • Lego_FoxLego_Fox United StatesMember Posts: 12
    I do not agree that having more sets hinders creativity. Wouldn't having more options allow you to do more things? Also most children or people will buy only about less than ten sets or so a year, so even though there are that many sets available you're really only getting more options on what you can use creatively.
  • tamamahmtamamahm Member Posts: 1,977
    Ditto Shib and CCC.
    i will also add that while there is creativity in building sets from scratch, there is also creativity in using a set that has been built for creative pretend. Both types of play are inherently creative. I have seen my kids engage in both types of creative play, and neither should be thought of as 'better' creativity over the other. 
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 14,073
    edited July 2016
    I get the sense this a bit of the: 'kids these days...' sentiment.

    I think kids have and always will find ways to exercise their creativity.  Despite technology, progress, bad parenting, the 'changing times', etc.  

    I spent three hours drawing elephants with my daughter on the back of scrap pieces of paper.  Despite having the entire Disney movie library, numerous show taped on a TiVo, iPads, video games, a trampoline, soccer nets, bicycles, rollerskates, and other various 'distractions'. 

    And a mountain of Lego, of course.
  • catwranglercatwrangler Northern IrelandMember Posts: 1,890
    edited July 2016
    Also, if there are more sets available now, and children tend to be bought more sets (which I suspect might only hold true on a really large scale for the children of AFOLs, who are always going to have access to vastly more bricks than the average kid) than when we were kids, then it's possible that a kid today owns the same proportion of the overall available sets as we did in our childhoods...
  • MrShinyAndNewMrShinyAndNew Member Posts: 281
    The sheer number of crayola colours offered in a package of crayons harms creativity! In my day we had two colours and we liked it that way!

    Or maybe you could observe children building things and see how creative they can be. My six year old son has access to my entire collection. He knows how it's sorted as well as I do. He will take down a bin of pieces and build an entire whatever out of just those parts. For example, he'll grab the bin of snot bricks and build a house entirely out of bricks with studs on the sides, bricks with holes, bricks with cross-shaped axle holes. Or, he'll build a spaceship out of the snot brackets. All from one random bin. First of all, he couldn't have done that if he hadn't had so many of those bricks to use. Secondly, he uses everything at hand in conventional and unconventional ways. My daughter doesn't build as much but she is the same way. Having a lot of certain kinds of pieces lets you explore what you can do with those riches. 

    There is something to be said for creating within constraints, which is something a large collection doesn't accomplish, but not everything should be a haiku. Sometimes you want a limerick, or a sonnet, or a novel.
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